All WashU faculty, staff, trainees, students and all visitors are required to wear a face covering while on the Medical Campus. This policy includes contractors, vendors and any other visitors.
The requirements below apply to non-clinical areas and activities.
For clinical work, patient care providers should follow PPE guidelines as outlined by their clinical areas.
Importance of masks
Public health and other data strongly supports that universal masking substantially reduces transmission of COVID-19. The main purpose of the mask is to prevent the wearer from expelling small virus-containing droplets of saliva or mucus into the air and infecting others. Wearing a mask reduces the likelihood that an infected individual could spread the virus to people around them (colleagues, co-workers, friends, etc). This is especially important for infected people who may be asymptomatic.
Masks also protect the wearer. Researchers have determined that the nose is a key entry point for the virus that causes COVID-19. The publication in the journal Nature Medicine explained that nasal cells in particular contain high levels of the proteins that SARS-CoV-2 attaches to in order to enter the body.
Therefore, to reduce the spread of the virus, and to protect the health of all our faculty, staff, and trainees, WashU School of Medicine is requiring universal masking.
Who must wear a mask
All faculty, staff, trainees, contractors, vendors and other visitors must wear a mask.
- If you have a medical condition that may preclude mask wearing, please contact Occupational Health if you are faculty or staff, or student health if you are a student to discuss your condition and potential accommodations.
- Children under two do not have to wear a mask; however, in general, children shouldn’t be on the campus at this time.
How to wear your mask
- The face covering/mask should fit snugly to cover the wearer’s mouth and nose. Research on mask fitting shows that infectious aerosol exposure decreased by about 95% when masks were tightly fitted, providing roughly the same level of protection as an N95 respirator. CDC guidelines offer tips for tightening the fit of cloth and disposable masks to boost COVID-19 protection.
The recommendations include:
- Selecting masks with a nose wire
- Using a mask fitter over a disposable or cloth mask
- Checking that mask fits snugly with no gaps
- Adding layers of material (three or more)
- Knotting and tucking ear loops
- Masks should consist of two layers. This includes cloth masks for personal use, medical-grade masks used at work and N95 respirators used for high-risk patient interactions. Cloth masks are not medical grade, but multi-layer cloth masks — or a cloth mask layered over a surgical mask — are appropriate for when you are out in public, such as at the grocery store.
- Don’t double mask with medical-grade, N95 masks. Because medical-grade masks already contain multiple layers of barrier, wearing two masks is not recommended, nor has it been shown to provide additional protection against the virus. Double-masking complicates the doffing process and creates increased risk for exposure if not removed correctly. Double-masking also can cause any medical mask (surgical/isolation or N95) underneath to become dislocated from its safe position or damp as a result of a tighter fit to the mouth.
Handle your mask properly
To put on your mask
- First wash your hands before picking it up by the ear loops or ties.
- The mask must cover your nose and mouth at all times.
- Avoid touching the outside of the mask with your hands. Do not adjust it throughout the day or pull it down to talk.
To take off the mask, repeat the process
- Clean your hands first and unfasten the ties or ear loops.
- Do not touch the front of the mask.
- Wash your hands again after handling the mask.
- In cubicles: If you work in an area where the person in a neighboring cubicle is less than 6 feet away, you must wear a mask at all times. If you can maintain physical distancing (more than 6 feet) from colleagues and others in the office, you do not face each other, and your workstation/cubicle is higher than your head when sitting, you are not required to wear a mask while in your work area.
- In common areas: Wear a mask when leaving your immediate work area, such as visiting the cafeteria or restroom, attending in-person meetings, and walking to and from your car, through links, buildings and in garages.
- While eating: You may remove your mask while eating. Be careful to keep at least 6 feet between you and other personnel.
- When you’re alone: If you are alone in a room (e.g. your office), you may remove your mask.
- While outdoors: Masks are not required outdoors unless you will be within 6 feet of others. For example, if you are walking on a busy sidewalk where you cannot separate from others by 6 feet, you should wear your mask.
Where to get masks
- You may bring your own mask from home. Remember to double mask unless wearing a medical-grade, N95 mask.
- The School of Medicine will provide cloth masks if needed for those who work outside of clinical areas. Limited masks may be available at campus-access screening stations.
Washing your masks
- Wash cloth masks before first use and after every subsequent use. The navy blue WUSM-provided masks should be hand-washed.
This public health policy will be strictly enforced. Violations of the policy may result in corrective and/or disciplinary action, including suspension or dismissal.
Washington University endorses the CDC guidance on wearing face coverings in public settings.
Preventing eyeglass fogging
It’s a common problem: Wearing a face mask can make your eyeglasses fog up. Here’s some advice to help avoid that problem. The tips come from two doctors and are published in the journal Annals of the Royal College of Surgeons of England.